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Border Patrol takes Santa into custody, briefly

"Surfing Santa" plies the Niagara river just before the incident.

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A wind-surfing Santa who crossed the Niagara River from Ontario, Canada, to Buffalo, N.Y, is picked up by the U.S. Border Patrol (December 22)
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BUFFALO, New York (CNN) -- It wasn't quite as disturbing as grandma getting run over by a reindeer, but, fortunately, few children were around Sunday to witness Santa being taken into custody by the Border Patrol of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"Basically I entered the country illegally," admitted Ontario businessman John Fulton, aka "Surfing Santa." He had just completed his 18th annual crossing of the Niagara River between Fort Erie, Canada, and Buffalo, New York, when Border Patrol officers pulled him aside, made him take off his Santa suit, patted him down, then put him into a patrol car and drove off with him.

Fulton, 42, wasn't upset. "They wanted to make sure they followed the new Homeland Security regulations ... I'm right behind what they did. Post 9/11, this is the world we live in. For them, the publicity stunt is good: 'We're not even going to let Santa Claus in the country illegally.' "

"They were real nice guys," said the 5-foot 11-inch, 175-pound, goateed Fulton. "They took me back to their headquarters there, photographed me and fingerprinted me. I felt like an illegal alien. I would have rather had my Santa suit on."

"Normally, in the past, you'd just touch down, then call in [to the Border Patrol]. It used to be more lax," he said.

Fulton gestures to cameras as he's being taken into custody.
Fulton gestures to cameras as he's being taken into custody.

Fulton was released and returned to Canada after he proved who he was and signed a declaration admitting he was in the United States illegally.

"I didn't have any ID. We went to my Web site to show them," Surfing Santa said.

Fulton said he had INS officials add to his paperwork that the "subject inadvertently landed in the U.S. while performing Surfing Santa duties."

Santa this year rode his substitute sleigh, a windsurf board, to raise money for "Out Of The Cold," a non-profit organization for the homeless, and the Resource Association for Teens (RAFT), a center for troubled teens, both in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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